StorageTek v. Custom Hardware

The DMCA has increasingly been used to stymie competition rather than fight "piracy." This case is another example of that trend.

Here are the facts: a vendor of high-density storage solutions wants to dominate the aftermarket for maintenance and service of its products. Nothing new here - vendors would love to lock you into using them for service. Thankfully independent service providers have traditionally been able to offer some competition to the benefit of consumers.

Years ago computer vendors started trying to use copyright law to block competition - if independent service providers need to turn on the computers they must be making unauthorized copies! Gotcha! Ultimately Congress had to amend the Copyright Act to make it clear that independent service providers could turn on your computer to service it without fear of copyright retribution.

Now the bad guys at it again this time with the DMCA. By putting a rudimetary "protection measure" on their maintenance code StorageTek hoped to lure independent service vendor Custom Hardware into a DMCA trap - aha even if the Copyright Act lets you turn on the computer now we've got you for "circumvention"!

Fortunately the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals wasn't buying it. It ruled that Custom Hardware was not violating the DMCA because merely activating the maintenance code had no nexus with any potential copyright infringement. After all it's not as though Custom Hardware was going to make a hundred copies and carry them off to sell at the local swap meet! They were just using code that StorageTek's customers already had on their systems.

StorageTek petitioned the full Federal Circuit asking that the earlier ruling be overturned and that the Federal Circuit's decision in cases/chamberlain-group-inc-v-skylink-technologies-inc">Chamberlain v. Skylink(the DMCA v. universal garage door opener case) be thrown out. Joining them not surprisingly was the entire copyright cabal (RIAA MPAA AAP NMPA SIIA ESA).

Well we think that the Federal Circuit was right to rule that the DMCA ought not block competition in garage door openers. Or printer cartridges. And we think they were right in this case not to let the DMCA block competition for computer maintenance either.

StorageTek's petition for rehearing or rehearing en banc seeking to have the Court of Appeals ruling overturned by the full court. Amicus brief of the Copyright Industries in support of the petition for rehearing. Amicus brief of the New England Legal Foundation in support of the petition for rehearing.

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